Before tonight’s game, the New York Rangers will announce the winner of the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award. The award is given annually in honor of NYPD officer Steven McDonald, a lifelong Rangers fan who was shot in the line of duty and as a result was paralyzed from the neck down. This award recognizes the player on the Rangers that “goes above and beyond the call of duty” and is selected by the Rangers fans. Over the years, this award hasn’t necessarily gone to the best player on the team, but rather the player who sacrifices himself for the betterment of the team night in and night out. On this blue-collar Rangers team, there are many players who go above and beyond the call of duty, but here are five Rangers that are the most deserving of the award.
5. Ryan McDonagh
After a rookie season where he emerged as a mainstay on the Rangers blue line, McDonagh’s season has been anything but a sophomore slump. McDonagh was promoted to the Rangers’ top defensive pair while Marc Staal was out with a concussion, and he has remained there all season even after Staal returned in January. McDonagh has averaged just below 25 minutes of ice time this year, while leading the team with a +27 plus/minus rating and is 2nd among Rangers defensemen with 30 points.
4. Henrik Lundqvist
The winner of the Extra Effort Award in his rookie season, Lundqvist’s exceptional play has gotten even better this year. He is one of the frontrunners to win the Vezina Trophy this year, and has been the backbone of the Rangers’ success. Off the ice, his commitment to the Garden of Dreams foundation has been second to none, and he was recognized by MSG by being awarded the Garden of Dreams Hero award for 2012.
3. Ryan Callahan
A two-time winner of the award, Callahan is the embodiment of this blue-collar team. In his first year as Rangers’ captain, Callahan has continued to help the team win a variety of ways, whether it would be blocking shots on the penalty kill or scoring a power play goal. Callahan has become one of the league’s best two-way forwards, and he has established career highs in goals with 28 and points with 53, and still has five games left to add on those totals.
2. Brandon Prust
Last year’s winner of the award, Prust has embraced his role on the team and has flourished in New York. Despite not being one of the biggest players in the league, his willingness to fight anybody and his personality have made him a fan favorite at Madison Square Garden. Despite playing through a variety of injuries, Prust has gone about his business and continues his hard-nosed play night in and night out.
1. Dan Girardi
Despite being a steady presence for the Rangers since he was called up midway through the 2006-07 season, Girardi’s play began to get league-wide recognition this season. Without Marc Staal for the first half of the season, John Tortorella leaned heavily on Girardi, and the defenseman responded. Girardi is 4th in the league in average ice time, playing over 26 minutes a night while continuing to be one of the league leaders in blocked shots. Girardi appeared in his 1st All-Star Game this season, and was given Marc Staal’s “A” while Staal was out.